Using close rhetorical analysis, Smith argues that Fielding's narrative method in
Tom Jones creates an ironic tension between the intrusive narrator and the highly artificial plot. Fielding's narrator employs a rhetoric of deception to maintain the central secret of Tom's birth around which his plot is structured. Such an ironic narrative method ultimately reveals the reader's dependence on conventional assumptions in interpretation and argues for epistemological prudence. Smith questions conventional readings of
Tom Jones and shows Fielding's comic novel to be both darker and more philosophical than generally assumed.